Chaika - The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle
by Paul Jensen,
If there's one thing Chaika The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle is good at, it's gathering the necessary elements for a major battle scene. The series is growing increasingly comfortable with spending entire episodes to simply set the stage. This approach lets the action unfold without constantly stopping to explain what's going on, but it also means that not every episode can offer a constant barrage of thrills.
This episode puts Chaika and company back on the trail of the Emperor's remains, thanks to another suspicious hint from Guy. The Principality of Hartgen is holding a martial arts tournament with a portion of the remains offered as a prize. The term “martial arts” is used loosely here, as entrants are apparently allowed to use whatever weapons and armor they can carry. Naturally, this attracts a wide variety of expendable bad guys for the main characters to fight.
Where the previous story arc's selling point was a rare truce between the red and white Chaikas, this episode promises the exact opposite. With Vivi and both Chaikas competing in the tournament, it's safe to expect some spectacular fights between some of the show's most compelling characters. With the Acura siblings on course to reunite with their old mentor, and Gillette finally rejoining the action, we may also get some closure on several unresolved side stories. As usual, the show's strong ensemble cast helps add excitement to a familiar premise.
Vivi's growth as a character is a welcome, if unexpected, strong point here. She started off as a shrill, annoying character whose purpose in the first season was mostly to fawn over Gillette. Compare that to her role in this episode, where she comes across as a complex individual with enough fighting prowess to rival the Chaikas. Even with her limited screen time, she steals every scene she's in. Putting Vivi through a complete emotional breakdown may have been one of the best things this series ever did, and she's come out of it as a much more interesting character.
Niva, on the other hand, isn't the greatest addition to the cast. Apart from some amusing exchanges with Chaika, she doesn't bring much to the show that wasn't already present. She's done very little to endear herself to the audience, and feels like more of a plot device than a character. It's a bit early to write her off completely, but Niva definitely needs to start showing some individuality outside of those crazy eye colors.
Even with a strong cast, an action series can only go so far on anticipation alone. This episode suffers from all the heavy lifting it does to set up a new story arc. There's a lot of exposition to sort through, and the result is a noticeable dip in the show's fun factor. Thankfully, the frequent banter between the main characters keeps things from getting too stale and serious. What the series needs to do now is capitalize on all the potential it's built up.
Slow episodes like this are necessary from time to time, and are perfectly acceptable as long as the show can make its high points worth the wait. The Chaikas have always managed to deliver so far, and there's little reason to think that this story arc will be any different. Once the tournament kicks into gear, the series should be able to show off its strengths again.
Chaika - The Coffin Princess Avenging Battle is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Paul Jensen also covers anime and manga at SharkPuppet.com.
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